1 MAY 2015


"He died in a Damascus hospital this morning. He will be buried tomorrow." That's it. That was the only indication that Lieutenant General Rustum Ghazaleh had passed away.

Very few would know him internationally. But the people of Lebanon who feared and despised him over three years when he persistently attempted to rule forcibly on behalf of his government knew him very well. From his military headquarters near the Eastern borders, in a town called Anjar, he commandeered politicians, businesses, anyone he sought to persuade, persecute or corrupt. He openly boasted about imposing bribes -- which he obviously shared with his partners in Political Security.

His public name was Abu Abdu. He habitually wore dark glasses. Very few actually saw the colour of his eyes, though he had eyes and ears everywhere.

After Syrian troops withdrew following the popular outrage at the high noon assassination of Lebanon's Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, he went back to another headquarters near Damascus and shifted his role but not his style. When accused of planning Mr. Hariri's murder, his denial was as sarcastic as his manner: how could he kill someone who bribed him regularly?! $300,000 every holiday for any religious sect, $800,000 ostensibly to build a school in his Syrian village, and millions during varied appointments and fixed elections -- were merely those announced. There was also a huge financial scandal of a bankrupted bank where a woman directly involved was helped to fly to Brazil in time to avert inevitable trial.

Reports in recent months from within the beleaguered region indicated that "Abu Abdu," head of "Political Security", was clashing with another General in charge of "Military Security." There were stories about differences over the presence of other armed groups in his area and hometown or disagreements about smuggling. There was also a claim that he was being punished because he may have been tempted to spill the beans to the International Tribunal about the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri.

Briefly, the main account is that he challenged the "macho" ego of his competing General who beat him into clinical paralysis. When the incident could no more be covered, particularly that all media eyes are on Syria, his demise was announced, without a bother of a usual regretful tribute.

He who lived by the clenched fist died by a clenched fist.